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Posts Tagged ‘Running’


It seems that for a while now there is a great deal of buzz on the Interwebs about “planks”.  I recently read a Tweet or FB post from Ryan Hall commenting on how long he could hold a plank.  Even I got onto the plank bandwagon a month or two ago as just something extra to add to my Winter routine.  However, in my own opinion, I think I will stick with the old standby of push ups.

First, I will describe a plank.  It is similar to a push up.  You are prone on the floor, then you raise yourself on your elbows, straighten your body and hold it rigid (while breathing) for as long as possible.  This is not as easy as it looks.  After doing them for a week (four planks in all), I timed my next one and discovered I could not quite hold the plank for a full minute.

The planks benefits are in strengthening one’s core, which includes shoulders, chest, back, glutes, and quads.  Yes, I am sure a real anatomy aficionado would get more detailed, but that is what I saw from one illustration.  Runners and cyclists both need strong core muscles.  The core is what helps hold us firm in the saddle and on the road.

So, I am not against planks to improve one’s core.  The plank is an effective method, I think, for strengthening the core.  My difficulty just came from the length of the plank versus the level of improvement.  I know that I spend a longer length of time doing as many push ups as I can than when doing a plank alone.  Probably, if I had stuck with planks longer, I would have seen the same results as I have with push ups, it just would have taken longer.

Push ups, are just what your junior high or high school phys ed instructor or that ornery drill instructor from the military taught you.  Same prone position at the start, however, you use your upper body strength (your arms and shoulders) to lift your whole body off the floor.

To do push ups correctly, one should maintain that same rigidity of the whole body as you do during a plank.  Second, one is also supposed to go all the way down and all the way up.  If you looked at your arms in the down position, they would be close to a 90 degree bend at the elbow.  When you are all the way up, your back should be straight and not curved and your arms are straight.  This isn’t a yoga move.

After doing planks for about three weeks, I switched to push ups.  At first, I couldn’t do more than about 20 and not even all 20 at one time.  But, I stuck with it and over the next several weeks, I improved to my current 60 or so each day.  I got to a higher level for a week or so, but it’s gone back down since I took more time doing them correctly.  I still can’t do the whole 60 at one time, but I have improved to 30 on the first set.

I noticed the improvement a couple of weeks ago on a long run of about 8 miles.  Often, as I run longer, I just seem to get tired and really have to work at holding myself in the correct posture for running.  However, this particular Saturday, I didn’t.  I noticed a definite lack of effort in keeping my upper body straight and correct, even near the end of the run. That was a good feeling.

That good feeling has continued.  I believe that planks gave me a nice start, but I improved my core strength much quicker after the switch to push ups.  I only did planks for about three weeks and have been doing pushups for over a month, so I don’t really think the planks were the improvement.  I still hold with the push ups as the major reason my core improved.

Regardless of whether one does planks or pushups, I recommend core work for runners and cyclists.  I am a believer in core work after seeing the improvement in my running just from this short time of working my core.  I expect to see even more improvement over the Spring as I can get out for longer runs and rides. So, I’ll say that push ups are better than planks for core work, if you wish to improve a little quicker than planks alone would accomplish. Additionally, I think that push ups give the upper body more work than doing planks.  Happy running!

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The reason that I haven’t blogged as much lately is because my running and biking is fairly stable.  If you call this particular winter in North Texas a stable one.  I am working on my second week with no weekday runs because of either uber-cold, precipitation or both.  As such, on those mornings, I am relegated to my bike on the trainer, a plank, and as many push ups as I can tolerate.  It’s a decent workout, but it is not the same as running.

This workout usually leaves a little time for Facebook or checking and deleting the plethora of useless e-mails I receive.  This morning was e-mails.  I stopped when I saw I had  received one for Home Depot, not an address I see often, and read the e-mail.

Expecting a sales pitch or some weekend sale on lumber, I was surprised when it was about my application with them while I was out of work year before last.  It seems they are short on help and wanting to know if I would like to update my application and start the process over again.  Or, if I wasn’t interested they were ready to delete my information since it had been a year since I applied.

Really, Home Depot?  After my experience with your organization during the one and only interview I obtained with my local Home Depot, why would I want to work for you all?

I applied for Home Depot because I was out of work and trying to see if I could work for myself, and I also realized that even if I got another job, I might still need the extra income.  The store in Valley Ranch called one day and asked if I was interested in a weekend bilingual position with them.  I was interested and we set up an interview with the team leader for whom I would be working.

My interview ended up being short and not sweet.  The team leader was curt and not overly interested in anything I had to say.  She asked if I had any retail experience.  No, I hadn’t.  However, I knew almost every product in their store and how to use it.  After 30 years of trades and craft experience, my goal was to be the kind of person that folks would come in and get answers for their needs.  Second, when it came to working hours, she informed me that all part time employees were REQUIRED to be available for the entire weekend.  Nope, not happening.  The interview was over.

So, Home Depot.  Because you don’t train your leaders very well in the skill of trying to find out what kind of person they are and what they can bring to your company, you missed an opportunity to hire a highly skilled craftsman with the desire to help your customers succeed.  Because your team leader was more interested in filling a slot than discovering the potential sitting in front of her, you lost someone who could not only make sales, but make return customers.

Am I bragging-possibly, but as Will Rogers said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.”  My résumé speaks for itself.  I notice often that folks working at Home Depot, though they are well-meaning and probably hard workers, it would be best to also hire folks that actually know what to do with all those products you would like to sell.  Someone that cares about the customer being able to go home and successfully complete the projects and repairs they want to accomplish.  It does bother me no matter what the marketing of any company projects, it seems they only care about selling more products than actually making happy customers.  So, Home Depot, I probably do not want to come and work for your organization, even though I could still use that extra income.

I guess in the end, I will just have to stick to spending my Saturday mornings out on the road running, and hopefully soon, during the week as well.  Happy running!

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I was talking this morning on the phone with an insurance lady that remarked how her grandmother told her that when she was older that the years would just fly by.  Now in her 30’s, the lady was realizing her grandmother was telling the truth.  This year, I turned 53 and time is moving quickly enough that I may soon have to have a conversation with Mr. Einstein about relativity.

Yes, we have come to another end of year.  However, please don’t look forward to my resolutions.  I resolve not to resolve.  After several mistakes as a younger person who said he would never do such and such, just to find out that later he very much was going to do such and such, I no longer try to test God‘s patience, nor my own.  I have a rough idea of the path I should be upon, only enough to see just a few steps in front of me, and there I will go.

No, instead, I am going to reflect a little on this past year and how it has and will shape my new year.  I am learning many new things and realizing that I am not that younger person any more (and my sweetie most likely says, “Thank the Lord!”).  I still haven’t become the person I wish to be, but as the apostle says, “I am daily straining forward to earn the prize”, or something very close to that any way.

This year marked seven years of cycling and five years of running.  Though I was only able to participate in one organized ride and my half marathon this month was cancelled due to the weather, I still ran and biked (and swam) for most of the year.  The discipline I have learned from both is invaluable.  No matter what may occur in daily life, I know I can get up most mornings and either run or ride off the dross (hope I used that word correctly).

In addition, the patience and sometimes just plain fearlessness learned from running helped me to do something I never thought I would be able to do.  I play in a band now.  OK, it’s a church band and I play bass, but it’s music and it’s worship, so there.  In response to a felt need, I started working at the first of the year to put my lackluster efforts at learning guitar into playing bass instead.

I worked with the band leader at our church, who was the bass player also.  I borrowed my daughter’s bass and started to relearn my scales and try to put those to good use in keeping rhythm.  I had the mistaken belief that this was simple since I had less strings and less complexity (4 instead of 6, and country bass).  I did not know what I was thinking. There is so much more to playing bass than just personal proficiency.  Yet, I did not quit.  Learned that one from running.

About May, the band leader said I needed to get ready because in the Fall he would be out some and I should prepare for an audition.  OK.  No problem.  I just needed to get serious.  In September, I started sitting with the band during their Wednesday practice to work on live playing (they played, I struggled to keep up).  I kept my bass unplugged and sat in a pew and followed along.  After a few weeks of this, it was time to put things to the test.

The band leader asked me to plug in and play with them.  It wasn’t the greatest of beginnings, but it began.  The band leader loaned me his bass since it had better tone.  I do think my daughter’s Dean Metalman V-shaped bass still had a little to do with that decision, but I’ll just say it was tone.  The next Sunday, I played for real, on the stage, plugged in, and everything. Very scary, but I survived the audition. My band leader said I could fill in the next Sunday when he was out.

While I survived the next Sunday with the band leader out, I brought back his bass to practice ready to be just the backup bass player.  Nope, not happening.  The band leader had his banjo out and ready to work.  I was in another week, and then another, and then another.  By now it was time to start working on Christmas music.  After a meeting and answering some serious questions, I was accepted.  I became the new bass player. Now, every Sunday it is my responsibility to keep the beat and help with the rhythm so that others can worship as well.

However, I was still playing on a borrowed bass.  Affording a new one was pretty much out of the question for some time.  I wasn’t sure just how to accomplish obtaining a bass that I could call my own.  But, following God and learning to be a runner and a cyclist taught me to rely on God, and determine what was really important.

I had two good six-string electric guitars.  One was a mid-1980’s Fender Stratocaster.  After a lot of thought and more than a little prayer, I sat down one Wednesday after Thanksgiving and put both of them on Craigslist in offer of a trade for a bass.  Within an hour or so, I had an offer of a trade on what looked like a great bass.  I called the guy up and we arranged to meet at my church before starting time.  He looked over both my guitars and even though the Fender had a little cosmetic damage, he was happy to trade.  The bass he traded hadn’t seen play in a year.  I now owned a bass.

Christmas concerts are over.  Candle light services are over.  But, every Sunday comes and I have to be ready to anchor my spot and know my music.  It takes work, like running.  It takes patience, like running.  It takes struggle and endurance, like running.  It takes making mistakes, like running. It takes learning new things and being fearless, like running (and learning to embrace the lycra in cycling).

I have a great year coming in 2014.  I get to get up every morning I wish to and run.  When it warms up, I will get up on Sunday mornings and ride, ride, ride.  I will continue to learn, and practice, and train so that I will be able to “take hold of the prize” as the apostle says.  It’s all a work in progress.  Happy New Year, and Happy Running!

 

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Today is Thanksgiving and I am sitting on the couch at my wife’s parent’s house enjoying being around everyone.  Our kids and grandkids will be here later to enjoy food and family.  Yes, this is a cliché Thanksgiving post.

Not everyone is here though.  There has been loss and there is also separation. So, it is not always as easy as it seems, but then for many, holidays are never as Hallmark-y as they make it out to be.

In our bible class at church we are studying John’s gospel.  He’s that “other” guy in the group.  The one that didn’t write like all the rest.  One of John’s repeated motifs is the “I AM” statements from Jesus.  “I AM the Light that has come into the world,” Jesus says.  “I AM the Bread…”, “I AM the Good Shepherd“, and “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”, are also statements of Jesus.  I suppose these hearken back to when Moses was at the burning bush asking God what His name was so that the Hebrews would know whom it is that Moses is talking to them about.  God’s only answer was, “I AM THAT I AM“.  He needed nothing more.

I think that at this time of year, it is good that we see that same simple statement in ourselves and the kind of spiritual power those small words have.  I am…

I am…thankful.  That is the biggest thing for this year.  It has not been easy for me or my family.  Since losing my former job in 2012, I was finally hired after five months of searching by a nearby hospital.  I am thankful for being able to keep a roof over our heads and food upon the table.  My new situation doesn’t allow for much more than that, but we have still been blessed and cared for every day of this past year.  Regardless of how little we had in our pockets, God provided for us all year.  I am thankful for these blessings because I know that others have even less and are still thankful.

I am…a runner.  Didn’t think I would stick that in here, did you?  No matter what has happened this year in other ways, I am still a runner.  I still get up twice during the week to run before the sun is up, and every Saturday I still go out for my long run.  My only race of the year will be in a week at the Dallas Marathon, where I am running the half.  I was fortunate to register back in the Summer and I am looking forward to the race. Yes, I am still a runner.

I am…a cyclist.  Well, we have to keep it going don’t we?  Cycling  is an expensive sport.  However, it can also be simple.  I managed one organized ride in May, but I have still been riding.  I have friends that have gotten up early on Sundays to ride a few miles and when they aren’t available, I realized I could still get up early and ride for myself.  While I don’t ride as many miles as in past years, I still ride and have made a few good routes around town.

I am…a triathlete.  Well, this one is just on faith.  I stopped swimming about a month ago just because it got very boring.  I did manage to make my distance up to a mile a week for a while this year from mid-Summer until Fall.  However, 1800 yards in a 20 yard pool can get very old.  So, I will just sit out for a while until I just have to go back.

I am…still in ministry.  I thought that when we started over at a new church that I would just be “around”.  That isn’t the plan I see.  There have been opportunities all year for ways that I can serve and I have been glad of the opportunities.

Yep, it’s been quite a good year after all.  And, just think: Christmas is just around the corner and many new adventures await.  Happy running, and happy thanksgiving!

 

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Tonight it’s Friday evening, but I am ready for Saturday morning. My shorts and socks are laid out. My shoes are at hand. My water bottle is freezing to death in the fridge. The weather is irrelevant, but rain would be nice. I am ready.

Why? There is no race tomorrow. My distance is not special. There is no one waiting to run with, just myself. Why all the prep? Why the ritual? Because it’s Saturday. It’s my long run day.

Saturdays are important to me as a runner. It’s the day to run long. The day to run slow. It’s the day to run and see everything wake up. It reminds me of why I run. It maintains the idea that I am just a little insane.

Not every runner runs long on Saturdays. Some run long on other days and at other times. Long is relevant only to each individual runner. Our distance may even change over time and season.

I run long on Saturdays not to race others. I only have three people that I have to do my best to beat, me, myself, and I. Tomorrow is Saturday again and those three will be running. I better be also. Happy Running.

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As summers go in North Texas, up until this week, it’s been rather mild.  Yet, that doesn’t mean it’s been nice; especially for running.

Up until the end of June, we were stricken with a “higher than I can remember in recent past” humidity level.  The actual temperatures remained lower than normal, but the moisture in the air was pretty high.  On one of those runs in June, I finally gave vent to breaking my daughter’s rule (actually, she says it should be an ordinance).

One day a few years ago, my daughter was babysitting for some friends during the day.  The friends live across from a park and when she went outside once during the day, there was an older gentleman out in the park sans shirt.  She came home that day and informed us there should be a city ordinance against old men (yours truly included) from being outdoors without a shirt, because we don’t have the body for it.

On some of my really long runs getting ready for my second marathon last Fall, I encountered a problem that guy runners often encounter, injured nipples.  Yup, it can get really bad.  When I could tell the injury was about to start, I would just stop and remove the shirt and keep going.  It was better to break my daughter’s rule than to come home with bloody nipples. Yes, it should probably make you laugh.

In December, we had a warm spell around the day for the Dallas Marathon.  Sure enough, about 10 miles out, I could tell that the sweat was going to be a problem. Now what do I do?  I’m in the middle of a big–very public–well photographed race. I took off the shirt. A marathon has enough of its own aches to slow me down, and I wasn’t going to let this be one more.  So, I removed the shirt once again.  I went without the shirt through about the next 15 miles.  About that time, we reached downtown and the forecasted cold front began to blow in.  I put the shirt on for the last mile or so and ran across the finish line without breaking the “Rule”.

Fast forward to June of this year.  As soon as the humidity level struck, the uncomfortable nature of running with a shirt surfaced once again.  I had learned now that not only was running sans shirt a good preventive measure against the dreaded bloody nipples, it was much more comfortable to run during   serious heat and humidity. The die was now cast.

For most of June and almost all of my July runs, I’ve simply left the shirt at home.  We had a rare cold front at the beginning of July and the temps and humidity were just good enough in the morning that I could tolerate a shirt for a few days that week.  However, since then, it’s back to shirtless running.

Fortunately, for my daughter’s sake, I run mostly in the early AM hours and she is not awake to be aghast at my total disregard for her “Rule”.  I consider my comfort while running a lot more important than what I look like, which I assure you is not pretty.  Since I run a lot in the dark, my pasty white skin was my primary defence early on for visibility.  But, after a few weeks of Saturday long runs, I have resorted to extra reflective bands during my morning runs now.

I’m not sure what the public actually thinks of seeing a senior citizen running loose without a shirt.  I haven’t been pulled over by the police yet.  I haven’t seen anyone look like they are going to get sick.  No moms have covered their kids eyes because of me either.  So, I have to assume at this point that probably no one cares.  I certainly know that when it’s 90 degreesF when I take out for a run, ditching the shirt definitely makes a difference in the quality of the run.  I wonder how long into the Fall this will last?  Happy Running, ya’ll!

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Yep, I’m back.  No, I didn’t go anywhere.  I’ve just been busy.

Since the first of this year, my family’s budget has been much more strict.  That can be problematic when you’re a triathlete, clydesdale or otherwise.  It’s kind of normal that in the 21st century, everything is an industry these days.  So, yes, there is the running industry, the triathlon industry, and I even work in the healthcare industry.  Side note: In my own personal opinion and belief, healthcare of any kind should never be considered an “industry” in any sense.  It should always and only be considered ministry, regardless of your religion.  We should be working ourselves out of a job, not creating permanence and profit. That being said, industries have one primary goal in mind: setting their followers free from the green stuff in their pocketbooks and making them feel good about it.

That’s not cynical, people, it’s just true.  Industries are in it for making money.  They exist because they have constituencies; followers.  Runners need shoes, shorts, shirts, gels, sleeves, compression gear…and the list goes on and on.  Get it–runners NEED this stuff (feel free to substitute cyclist, triathlete, etc.).  And, it’s true that there are times when we do need the stuff, or it may help us in one way or another.  However, many times, we just want it.  Of course, for many triathletes, what we  most want is the next race, or ride, or whatever event there is down the pike.

Previously, during most of the year, I was budgeted to one event per month (except for special instances). One race or one ride.  Now, even those will be hard to come by, so I am doing with less of them.  I attended one ride this Spring, primarily because it was inexpensive and we didn’t have to travel far (and there was something for sweetie to do while I rode).  I was able recently to sign up for the Dallas Half Marathon in December because of a birthday gift.  No, I am not complaining, but I am learning a lot more about what it means to be a runner or a cyclist this way.

I’ve learned I can do without Clif bars.  I’ve learned I can do with just Gatorade.  I already reported that while funds were available, I pre-bought two pair of running shoes so they would last.  I’m keeping my 400 mile pair in service for short runs to make them last even longer.  I’ve also learned to get more out of my workouts than just a notch up for the next race or event.

Usually, by now, I am into full swing cycle mode for the Summer.  That hasn’t happened this year.  I have switched to doing long runs on Saturdays instead of going out and riding.  Mainly because I can’t get any medium length ones during the weekdays.  I was finding that if I got up at 4AM and did 6 to 8 miles, I was wasted for working that day.  Also, by waiting until Saturday, I can run longer and get into better condition, all while seeing the sun come up.  Much better, I think.

But, I’ve gotten some riding time in as well.  I’ve just had to be creative.  I’ve loaded up the bike on the car and driven out to a large trail where I can ride safely on Sunday afternoons sometimes.  Yes, that may be anathema to some, but it is better than nothing.  A friend recently started up his Sunday morning group ride around town.  Since I don’t have to be at church at 7AM any more, I can now ride.  Also, much better.

I’ve been working on a better running workout that is doing me some good right now.  My weekday runs are limited to about 3 and no more than 5K at a time.  Then on Saturdays, I’ve been working from 8 to 14 miles.  I just finished the first cycle a couple of weeks ago and now I’m going from 9 to 14, then 10 to 14, then 12 to 14.  After I finish that cycle, I’ll go back to 8 and start over again.  I’ll let you know how it goes, but so far it has felt very good to get out and do the longer runs like I was doing for the marathon.

I’m trying to hold 1,000 yds. in swimming, but I waffle some.  I’m down to just one day as Mondays are seniors only at my pool.  It’s a lot less busy that way and I can swim better.  An Ironman friend of mine had been doing a workout where he ran to the pool, did his swim, then ran home.  I’ve started doing that some.  It’s a killer workout, to borrow a cliche, but well worth the effort.

I hadn’t really been a running clothes horse.  My only few important things I’ve had for a while; a couple pairs of compression shorts, and some really good socks, plus a pair of winter woolies and running pants for Winter.  Almost all of my shirts are race shirts or were bought at Wal Mart or Target.  You can get decent stuff there.  I haven’t need any clothes this  year, but if I did, I know where to look.

It’s been different not racing or going to rides as much.  I’ve been blessed with more great runs this way than usual.  I am still getting to do new things.  I’ve noticed I am running much faster than I used to run.  It’s decently exciting to finish a long run on Saturday and discover you didn’t take as long as you thought.  It’s also good to be able to run by the grocery store on your run and see folks you know.

Running and working out is about a lot more than just the events.  You really don’t have to have a lot of money to do it.  You do need to have really good shoes though.  There you cannot scrimp.  That just requires planning and budgeting to make it work.  I’ve been reminded a lot more lately of just what it means to be an athlete (or “late onset athleticism as John Bingham calls it).  At my new job, I have been able to put into practice all those things I believe in about being a craftsman such as doing a good job just because it’s the way you do a job.  Now, I’ve been able to apply those lessons to running, biking, and swimming.  Doing them well just because you should and because  you can.  Triathlon training on a budget does work.  Happy running, ya’ll!

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